I have a dozen and one things to do this morning, but I can’t settle to any of them. I have pieces to write, emails to send, research and planning to get sorted, but instead I’m sitting at my desk, feathers still ruffled from a stressful and upsetting morning getting the children out to school.
We have a cast-iron routine, that almost works to perfection. Bags are packed and clothes laid out the night before. Things are much easier now that they can all dress themselves, now that the youngest doesn’t want milk from me or need a nappy change right as we’re leaving the house. Yet somehow, we still always seem to leave a minute or two too late, me cross with one or other of them (usually the eldest).
It’s not just mornings, if I’m being honest. My eldest and I are constantly at loggerheads. I’m not quite sure when it happened. He wasn’t an easy baby, but he became a sweet toddler and a fairly delightful preschooler. He is still a lovely boy, and yet he has the ability to drive me to distraction far more than his siblings.
I’ve only recently realised why. He is, character-wise, a carbon copy of me. He is clever but lazy, kind but fundamentally selfish, a dreamer whose attention is only ever half on what is actually happening around him. He will read for hours past his bedtime, even though he knows it will make him tired in the morning. He will leave his homework till the last possible minute, even though he knows it makes everyone grumpy. He will conveniently forget to do his chores, despite the certainty born of experience that doing so will ultimately create far more work.
The things that I hate in myself, I see in him. The traits I know have caused me the most problems in my life, I can tolerate far less easily than the quirks and foibles of his brother and sister. I want, naturally enough, to smooth his path in life, and I can’t stop myself from wanting to shape his character in the way I wish mine had gone.
I can’t stop myself wanting to, even though I know that it’s not something I either could or should try to do. He’s not my second chance at things, my opportunity to have my time over and get it right. I know that many women see their in their daughters a way of reliving their own past experiences, recreating the good and rejecting the bad, but – perhaps because my own little girl is so different to me – that’s not a major element in our relationship. My youngest, too, is what LM Montgomery would have called a hop out’o kin, and for all that his oversized character sometimes dominates us all, I don’t have any problem in seeing him as his own distinct person.
I suppose that recognising what makes me so impatient with my eldest is a first step in trying to react differently to the behaviour that lights my fuse. How I parent him, though; how I let him make the mistakes I can see coming a mile off and be there in the background to pick him up without an “I told you so!” is going to take much more work.